Chapter I

“Shitt man!!!”, I shouted.

“What Happened?” was the obvious question from the people around me including Mr. Sharma, my manager.

“Well, nothing. Forget it”, I tried to give a lame excuse to that gossip seeking bunch of people called – ‘my team’.

Now, how could I have told them that my new found love, just for whom I have stretched my shift by 2 hours already, is not taking the cab at 8.

Oh, but before we get into all this Romeo-Juliet love story, with only Romeo being in love yet though, I think it makes all sense to give a quick introduction about myself.

Hi, I am Siddhant – Siddhant Chhabra – Working as a specialist to improve customer experience ‘numbers’ with one of the biggest computer manufacturers and as like ‘probably’ the 50% of engineers passed out in last couple of years – the slave of night or in a little offensive term – call center employee.

Now, the introduction formality is over – it’s time for a quick flashback of my story so far.

It all happened exactly 10 days, 23 hours and roughly 13 minutes ago (Wow, that shows I am in love). I was sitting in the rear of the Tavera – almost half dead after a looooong last working day of the week. It was still 5 minutes for the cab to leave from office but the wait was seemingly much longer.

“Bhaia, when would you move”, asked one of the ‘babes’ sitting on the middle seat.

Well, the reason for calling the girl with that objective ‘babes’ was that’s what every next girl of my city thinks her to be. Honestly, most of them are. Exceptionally gorgeous, well dressed and sorry for the word though – ’sexy’ girls in Chandigarh are just like flights at Los Angeles airport – every minute you see new ones (and better) landing around you. May be that’ why it’s called ‘the city beautiful’.

“Paanch (five) minutes madam”, driver replied.

Well, wait is always not appreciated but these five minutes were looking the longest ever – I was so damn tired that I was not even looking at Mannat Khan – so called ‘the best totta’ of our organization – at least at our office.

“Is this cab going to sector 18?”, a sound so sweet that I had never heard before came from outside.

“Yes”, replied Mannat.

Although I was too tired but you know – men are men and just like any other man, I gave her a quick glaze ensuring that she doesn’t come to know about it.

“Wowwww!!!” was the only word that came to my mind, bells started to ring all over, birds started to sing and the world came to a pause as soon as I saw her – true feelings of love at the first sight. Although she was ‘OK types’ from Chandigarh standards – I mean not too much fitting into the ‘babe’ definition but she seemed as pure as water, as gorgeous as the best of the flowers and as simple as like any other girl next door whom your mom would like to make a bahu any given day.

“Ok Mr. Chhabra, get your senses back”, I said to myself still recovering from the suddent attack of cupids.

Well, the senses were back but I was lost. I simply couldn’t take my eyes off her. After a couple of minutes, I realized that she was a little misfit in the surrondings looking slightly /seemingly uncomfortable. Her reactions suggested that probably the attire of Mannat and the other babe next to her were making her feel short of clothes even in that patiala salwaar-kameez.

“Ahhh, that’s the true Indian girl Iam looking for”, I said to myself , I had found the girl of my dreams.

Since, that day – I’ve followed her like a real spy – checking what time she takes her breaks, which cab she boards and even followed that cab on my bike one day just to find more details about her. All this could make me eligible for an alternate career in a detective agency if not with CID or CBI or FBI . The outcomes of spying were encouraging – she is Sonia, lives with her family, it’s her first job, is a little reserved, doesn’t have too many friends, very interestingly doesn’t have a boy friend and daily boards the cab at 8 after her shift.

Like an impatient lover , I daily stretch my shift by 2 hours to ensure that I take the same cab as her with a hope that someday I would speak to her and my story would take a new turn.

Ok, flashback is over and we are back live now.

I was extremely disappointed that she has left early today and seems she had taken the cab earlier. she has never done it since we’ve met or rather I’ve seen her, I said to myself, “What could be the reason? Is everything Ok?”.

“What happened Chhabra sahab? You look troubled.”, said Manager Sharma pulling me out of my thoughts.

“Well, nothing. Seriously”, I said.

“Oh come on boy tell me. Any girl?”, he said.

“Why are some managers so good at reading people’s faces and Am I so much in love now that anyone can read me?”, I thought.

“Well, yeah.”, I said with a little hesitation .

“Wow, our boy is in love. Tell me who is she”, he said.

Although, I don’t like to share my story with all and infact hadn’t talked about Sonia with anyone yet – I still told him what all I’ve been through till now.

“Don’t worry bro. She might have finished her work earlier today. Don’t take too much tension. Tomorrow she will be there”, he said.

Now, how could I tell him that how much does this mean to me. How could I tell him that probably I even won’t be able to eat chicken curry which mom will cook for lunch today. Anyways, I also know nothing could be done and I need to learn how to handle such situations and many more to come – this is just the beginning.

He asked me to join him in the cafeteria and have breakfast. I couldn’t say no because end of the day he is my manager and you should never take panga with them – definitely not when you are on verge of a promotion. He ordered Chhola-Bhaturas and despite of being around a quintal and visibly over weight – he started eating those full of oil delicacies with utter delight – that’s what a true Punjabi is.

I was silent and just ensuring my physical presence there as my entire mind was still busy in working out all the permutations & combinations regarding Sonia’s early departure.

“You know Mr. Chhabra, I have a gut feeling that you will meet her in the cab today”, he said breaking the silence.

“Well, I hope for the same as well sir but I am positive that she has left for the day. Anyways, thanks for the positive words”, I replied.

“Well, let’s see”, he said.

I am not sure why he sounded too positive but I was not too convinced. Well, breakfast was over and it was time to go and we both came to the parking. I just walked up to his car with him to see him off for the sake of courtesy.

“All the best Chhabra sahab”, he said smiling and drove away.

Well, I just came to my cab and sat thinking about Sonia with closed eyes – I couldn’t really think anything else these days.

“Excuse me”, someone said.

Bells!!!

Birds!!!

Songs!!!

It’s SONIA.

“Oh my God, it’s her – she was right there and this time right in front of me”, I said to myself trying to control the sudden rush of blood and excitement. Cupids seemed to work at their best and I didn’t know what to do?

“Wow, Sharma ji. Deja Vu”, I thanked at least million times wirelessly to manager sahab. His gutt feeling was true and I just felt like a revived soul.

“Hi, I am Sonia”, she said smiling and stretched her hand towards me.

“Hi, I am Siddhant. Nice meeting you Sonia”, I somehow replied and for next 30 minutes we just talked and talked and talked. It was the best journey of my life so far and everything seemed to be more beautiful than ever.

“So, see you tomorrow in the cab at 8″, I said to her while she was getting off at her residence and that ‘smile only’ reply told me how the world is going to be now on.


Chapter II

It has been almost 3 months since I started boarding the cab@8 and believe me, things have really been going great so far. The bells still ring, birds still sing and the world still comes to a pause whenever Sonia – the queen of my dreams, is around.

We seem to have gradually moved on in the generic lifecycle of being acquaintances to friends to ‘just friends’ to ‘more than friends’…

…No No! – Don’t jump to conclusions – we’re not tagged ‘lovers’ yet.

And the reason?

Simple – Sonia would never propose to me (as she is shy enough) and I could not do it because of… Well, what else than a free advice in a free country? Actually, it was more of a statutory warning than just advice and that too when I was almost on the verge of proposing to Sonia around a week ago.

“Well, good girls generally think of a girlfriend-boyfriend relation to be something ‘really’ bad – in much of India, at least. Till the time you are good friends – you can visit her anytime, but as soon as you are her ‘boyfriend’, parents, siblings, neighbours – The whole world seems to look at you with a different perspective and doubt your every move. Therefore, it’s better to be friends rather than kill your freedom”, said Naina – my team member at office.

“What a pity!!!” I thought.

“Yeah right! What a suggestion”, I said when I got this million dollar advice for free.

“No, really! Trust me. If you really wanna lose her – then it’s your choice.” she said.

She had just crashed my mega plans for the first ever proposal of my life and on top of that had left me thinking about the most dreadful consequence that I would have wanted my fairy tale to have – losing Sonia. It was just like rubbing salt, lemon, pepper and whatever else you can think of, on absolutely fresh wound. However, as she talked about losing Sonia – I had no choice other than to go by her suggestion and dump the plan.

Although I have dumped the plan, Naina’s words have really made me a worried man. Since that day, whenever I meet Sonia – apart from the ritual of birds, bells & songs in my heart shaped brain – another ritual has begun – every now & then I see a blue screen error: “File not Found – sonia.life is Missing”. I know it sounds funny but that’s justified; for me being a computer geek. Moreover, it’s not about the way it’s coming to my stupid brain but it’s about the criticality of the message – It is a ‘BSOD’ – A Blue Screen of Death!

Each time I get that thought, I tell myself, “No… It can’t happen” but there is something inside me which has turned that small warning into a full-fledged question bank. A bank flooded with questions – which I don’t want to answer ever.

What if it really did happen?

What if Sonia is really gone?

I think, I am no more in love with Sonia…

…I am now ‘madly’ in love with Sonia.

Every night in my dreams – I see you, I feel you, played my Sony K790i phone – and that tone was exclusively dedicated to Sonia.

“Why is she calling me at this time?” I thought as I suddenly came out of the intuition of impending doom.

It’s well past 3 am and it was unusual for her to be awake at this time after she had quit the job (our common workplace) to prepare for her MBA entrance last month – you know she is one of those padhaku1 types – not like us – content with being the slaves of night – the call center employees.

“Hey, awake this time?” I said.

“Yeah!” She sounded very excited.
Can you imagine? Someone excited at 3 am!

“What happened? Someone seems amazingly happy for this time of the day.” I enquired.

“Well, my dreams have got wings”, she replied.

“What?” I said thinking that something was wrong somewhere boss.

“I am flying to Queen’s College Canada for my MBA next week Siddhant. Yipeee!!!”

She was on cloud 9 and my doomsday news was finally out. The birds stopped singing, bells stopped ringing but the world still came to a pause – a pause that I had wished would never come, a pause which was killing, a pause which was going to be long enough to be called – forgettable.

What I had dreaded was right there in front of me – she was going.

“Bloddy-hell!!! Why hadn’t I thought of us getting married? May be that could have come true today.” I thought.

“You there?” she said.

“Oh yea… Yes… I…I’m right here”, I tried to speak from my choked throat – who says boys don’t cry?

“What happened? Are you ok?” she probably got the feel.

Now, how could I tell her that what she had just told me was more than enough for me to fill buckets full of tears and only I knew how was I managing to keep it in only a choked throat.

“Nothing – just a bad throat. Tonsils you know”, I tried to re-gather my strength.

“Hmmmm”, she said.

“Well, that’s great news. Wow! You will be an NRI soon”, I said trying to stop her from guessing my state of affairs.

“Yea… I am extremely happy. I always wanted to go to Queens’, Siddhant. Thanks to all your prayers”, she said.

“Prayers… What prayers? I would never ever, in the wildest of my imagination, say prayers which would take you away from me”, I said to myself.

“Chalo, I just wanted to tell you about this as I just got the confirmation letter in email. Let’s talk in morning.” she said.

“OK. Good night & congratulations again”, I also wanted to wrap up the conversation.

“Good night & sweet dreams. See ya”, she said.

“Sweet dreams – yea right”, I thought. The dreams were going to be nothing better than karela2 , for sure.

“Yeah, same to you. B-bye” and I disconnected the call. For the first time since we had become good friends – our call ended in only one good night & bye.

Now, suddenly the question bank was updated to version 2.0 with more difficult questions – What will I do now? Will I meet her again after she goes there? Will she find someone else and I will keep waiting for true love all my life? etc. etc. etc.

My heart & eyes also gave up during these thoughts and a tear rolled down my cheeks to make way for the river Amazon flowing right under my spects. The entire night was spent counting stars and Sonia kept making continuous appearances in the beautiful but inauspicious night.

Next morning Sonia told me that she was leaving on Friday night. And here I was, on Friday, to see her off.

“Flight is on-time. Boarding will start in 5 minutes, I think”, said her brother.

Five more minutes left for me to see my queen disappear seven seas away.

“Come on Siddhant. Say it today”, the motivator inside me spoke.

“Yes, I should”, I thought.

“But no! What if Naina was right? What if she really ended up thinking bad of me? What if she would never speak to me again?”, again the chemical-locha started in my brain3.

This is too bad man – too bad. Why are these love equations so complicated? They seem even worse than organic chemistry.

“Bye Sid. Time to go”, she brought me out of the battle royale – the battle of thoughts of a mad lover.

“Bye. Have fun gal”, I said.

“See you again soon”, she also seemed a little shaky now but that was probably because of the attachment of a friend & of a sister – nothing more for sure.

As she hugged her brother and turned back towards the boarding gate – I wanted to stop her, grab her hand and say my heart out but couldn’t gather enough strength to stop my queen from going to Queens’.

Soon, she was gone… And so was I.

After 15 minutes, as we were taking our car out of the parking lot at IGI, I saw the Maharaja4 taking off. My love’s dreams had sprouted wings and I was here like a bird with chopped feathers.

“Come on Sid. Dreams need wings to fly. You are born human with no wings but you’ll still fly”, Mr. Motivator again spoke deep inside me as my love seemed to be lost in the cloudy sky.

But that thought suddenly brought a rush of blood inside me.

“I can’t be a loser – I can’t let her go away so easily – I will make my dreams fly!” I promised to myself.

An SMS splashed on my phone the next moment – it was Sonia.

“I will miss you Sid. I hope you’ll come to Canada for…

…your love :)

Pause was again there – but for good. I was wrong – she loved me.

“Oh… My… God!!! She loves me”, my heart shaped brain jumped in joy.

The birds were singing again, bells were ringing again and I was mad again because the wings were there – and the only thing needed to do now was – to fly…

…and so would I.


Footnotes:

1: padhaku – Studious
2: karela – Bitter gourd
3: chemical-locha started in brain – Rapid thoughts
4: maharaja – Air India plane (signified by brand mascot)

With a million thanks to Ravneet Juneja for editing & Anupam Gupta for publishing on Inspired Spirits.

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